Africa

Nigeria marks four-year anniversary of Chibok kidnap

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Nigeria on Saturday marked four years since Boko Haram abducted more than 200 schoolgirls from the remote town of Chibok, with renewed calls for their release and that of thousands of others seized in the bloody conflict.

A total of 219 girls were taken from the Government Girls Secondary School in the remote town in Borno state on the evening of April 14, 2014 and have become an enduring symbol of the Islamist insurgency.

Four years on, 112 are still being held.

On Friday night, about 100 people attended a vigil in Nigeria’s biggest city, Lagos, under a busy flyover whose pillars are now adorned with brightly painted murals of the missing girls.

“We are here to show the government that we are still missing our sisters,” Zakaria Galang, a brother of one of the students who is yet to return, told AFP.

Further events are planned in the capital, Abuja, on Saturday.

Nigeria’s president in 2014, Goodluck Jonathan, was heavily criticised for his response to the abduction but the man who replaced him, Muhammadu Buhari, has had more success.

Since 2016, 107 girls have been found, released or escaped as part of a government deal with Boko Haram and the administration has said back-channel talks are ongoing for further releases and a possible end to the wider conflict.

Another activist, Habiba Balogun, said she hoped that would happen after nearly nine years of violence that has left at least 20 000 dead and made more than 2.6 million homeless.

“The government has said that they are ready to negotiate; they want to bring this nightmare to an end,” she said.

Buhari pledged to the Chibok girls’ parents that their daughters “will never be forgotten or abandoned to their fate” despite the time that had passed.

The former military ruler has repeatedly claimed Boko Haram was virtually defeated but while there have been clear army gains, security threats remain.

In February, fighters loyal to a Boko Haram faction headed by Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi seized 112 schoolgirls and one boy from the town of Dapchi, in Yobe state.

One hundred and seven were returned in mid-March. Five reportedly died, while one girl, the only Christian in the group is still being held.

Buhari said the return of so many students from Dapchi and Chibok “should give confidence that all hope is not lost” and showed the government was “doing its very best”.

There had been “unexpected setbacks” in talks because of infighting within Boko Haram.

But he added: “We will continue to persist, and the parents should please not give up. Don’t give up hope of seeing our daughters back home again.”

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‘Silent, invisible’ malnutrition seen as threat to generations in Congo

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Starving children are the glaring face of Congo’s humanitarian crisis, but millions more people are suffering slow onset malnutrition which could have harmful effects for generations, the United Nations said on Thursday.

About 13 million of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s 80 million people are in need of humanitarian aid – 50 percent more than last year – since fighting in the central Kasai region and other areas forced millions to flee their homes.

Although violence has subsided in Kasai, fields are still barren and many people have not received food aid due to lack of funding, the United Nations and aid agencies said ahead of a donor conference in Geneva on Friday. Congo’s government has shunned the upcoming aid conference, saying that humanitarian actors are exaggerating the level of need, which will discourage investment.

“The problem with chronic malnutrition is that you don’t really see it. It is silent and invisible,” said Alexis Bonte, country representative of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Between 60 and 70 percent of people in Kasai and Congo’s other conflict zones have chronic malnutrition, which stunts children’s physical and mental development and makes them less likely to attain better opportunities as adults, he said.

Aid agencies are racing to help the 10 to 15 percent of people who need food urgently to survive, but those suffering a long-term lack of nutrients are harder to assist, Bonte said.

“That is one that we cannot handle by ourselves because we don’t have the money and we don’t have the capacity,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone after visiting Kasai.

People are starting to re-plant fields, he said, but it will take one to two years to regain normal crop production.

Last year assistance reached only a third of people in need in the massive Central African country as funding fell short, said the United Nations which is seeking to raise four times as much this year – $1.7 billion.

British charity Oxfam said it was forced to half food rations for 90,000 people last year due to lack of funding, and this year cut back even more.

Crises in Kasai and eastern provinces have been aggravated by President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down at the end of his elected mandate in 2016 with uncertainty sparking deadly street protests and fears Congo could slide back into civil war.

“The stakes are incredibly high in DR Congo. Continued inaction would be measured in loss of civilian lives,” said Jan Egeland of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

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15 killed in Nigeria bank robbery, attack on police station

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Fifteen people were killed on Thursday when a gang of armed men attacked two banks and a police station in the Nigerian town of Offa, police told AFP Friday.

The brazen assault happened in part of Nigeria’s volatile central region, where criminal gangs and cattle rustlers regularly attack security forces.

“They attacked the police station and at the same time attacked two banks,” said Kwara state police spokesman Ajayi Okasanmi, adding that nine police and six civilians died in the violence.

The gang invaded a busy commercial area where several banks and the police station are located in broad daylight around 4:50 pm (1550 GMT), said Okasanmi.

“We are going all-out to ensure we arrest them,” he said, adding that the haul from the robbery was not immediately known.

The robbers charged into the banks and shot people on the spot before making off with bags of cash on stolen motorbikes, said a witness.

“They split into two groups. One group attacked the divisional police station where they opened indiscriminate fire,” said a resident who witnessed the attack, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The other group attacked the two banks, shooting people they met inside, many of them in the head,” he said.

“They carried away money in sacks from the banks and fled on motorcycles they seized from okada (motorcycle taxis) riders.”

Senate President Bukola Saraki, one of Nigeria’s highest-ranking politicians, commiserated with the victims of the “savage attack” in Offa.

In a statement released Friday, Saraki said the robbery “is a despicable act committed by cruel individuals.”

Gang attacks are a persistent problem for Nigeria, adding to security woes in a country already grappling with the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has had to deploy military throughout Nigeria, West Africa’s largest economy, to quell violence in the absence of a strong police force and rigorous legal system.

On Wednesday, Buhari reiterated his support for $1 billion in emergency funding for weapons purchases to fight security threats across the nation, though critics warn that similar defense spending in the past has been tainted by corruption.

Police and military in the country were subject to intense scrutiny in February after it emerged that they were unable to repel Boko Haram fighters who stormed the town of Dapchi and abducted 111 schoolgirls.

Since then, 105 of the schoolgirls have been returned following negotiations with the Nigerian government, though six others — including one Christian who refused to denounce her faith — are still unaccounted for. The five others are believed to have died in the initial stages of the kidnapping.

Military and police are overstretched in Nigeria, which, along with fighting Boko Haram jihadists in the north, is battling militants and pirates in the oil-rich south, a simmering separatist movement in the east and a bloody battle between herdsmen and farmers spanning the vast central region.

Fighting fires on so many fronts takes an economic toll. This week Nigeria’s central bank governor Godwin Emefiele said the “herdsmen-related violence” poses a key risk to the country’s economic growth.

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Prince Lobelungu Khumalo safe in Zimbabwe

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Prince Bulelani Lobengula Khumalo of the Ndebele nation.

Crown Prince Bulelani Lobengula Khumalo of the Ndebele nation in Zimbabwe is safe and not detained by Zimbabwe authorities.

The Prince is reported to have landed at the Dr Joshua Nkomo International Airport near Bulawayo from South Africa on Friday afternoon, for his planned coronation on Saturday.

Last month, Prince Lobengula visited AmaXhosa king Zwelonke Sigcau in the Eastern Cape where he vowed to revive their kingdom under the new administration.

Family spokesperson, Prince Hlabezulu Khumalo says it is however unclear if the coronation will still go ahead.

“The position is that prince Lobengula Khumalo was delayed arriving at the airport… somehow people panicked that he must have been detained, but from what we hear he was not, he’s safely in Bulawayo. We are waiting to hear to hear from people at home what the judgement has been on the matter.”

The kingdom became defunct in 1894 following the mysterious death of Lobengula, the son of king Mzilikazi.

 

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Thousands flee militia violence in Central African Republic

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About 7,400 people have been forced to flee their homes as fighting raged between rival militias in northwest Central African Republic, the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday.

The internally displaced people in the area of Markounda since late  December have faced living conditions that “are extremely difficult,”, according to the ICRC, which is working alongside the Central African Red Cross and the NGO Doctors Without Borders.

“Families are confined to makeshift huts. The only health centre in Markounda has been looted since the outbreak of hostilities, there are not enough showers and latrines,” said Jean-Francois Sangsue, head of the ICRC delegation in Bangui.

For more than a month two rival armed groups, the National Movement for the Liberation of the Central African Republic (MNLC) and Revolution and Justice (RJ), have been battling for control of the area.

Up until the end of last year, they divided territory and checkpoints — a crucial source of income where businessmen, travellers and farmers are charged a fee to pass through.

But the murder of an RJ leader in November set off a chain reaction of killing and counter-killing.

More than 65,000 people have already fled fighting in the area to take refuge in Paoua, a town whose normal population is 40,000, according to the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

An operation by a United Nations peacekeeping force (MINUSCA) has been under way since mid-January to neutralise the armed groups.

The Central African Republic — one of the poorest countries in the world — has been mired in a deadly conflict since 2013.

The state has control over only a small part of the territory, while armed groups battle in the provinces for control of diamonds, gold and silver

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Oil tanker with 22 Indian crew missing in Gulf of Guinea since Friday

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A ship carrying 22 Indian crew and 13,500 tons of gasoline is missing in the Gulf of Guinea after contact was lost in Benin on Friday, the company and India’s minister of external affairs said on Sunday. The Gulf of Guinea has become an increasing target for pirates who steal cargo and demand ransoms, even
Source: The New Age

Twin car bombs kill at least 22 in Benghazi

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The death toll following a double car bomb attack in the Libyan city of Benghazi on Tuesday night has risen to at least 22, a hospital spokesperson said.

A further 20 people were injured and the number of fatalities could rise, Fadia al-Barghathi, spokeswoman for the city’s al-Jala hospital, told AFP.

An explosives-rigged vehicle blew up in front of a mosque in the central neighbourhood of Al-Sleimani, a security source said.

A second car exploded 30 minutes later in the same area, causing more casualties among security services and civilians.

The mosque is known to be a base for Salafist groups which fought jihadists in the eastern port city alongside forces loyal to military strongman Khalifa Haftar.

Ahmad al-Fitouri, a security services official for Haftar’s forces, was among those killed in the bombing, military spokesperson Miloud al-Zwei said.

Libya has been rocked by chaos since a 2011 uprising that toppled and killed dictator Muammar Gaddafi, with two rival authorities and multiple militias vying for control of the oil-rich country.

Haftar in July announced the “total liberation” of Benghazi, three years after his forces launched a military operation to seize the city from jihadists who had made it a stronghold following the revolution.

But clashes and attacks in the city have continued, including against diplomatic facilities and security forces.

Haftar supports a parliament based in the far east of Libya, while a rival United Nations-backed unity government in the western capital Tripoli has struggled to assert its authority nationwide.

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Ugandan university honours Madikizela Mandela

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Winnie Madikizela Mandela has received an Honorary Doctorate from Uganda’s highest institution of learning.

Makerere University honoured the veteran activist for her roles in the struggle against apartheid.

The University awarded Madikizela-Mandela an honorary Doctorate of Laws for her role in South Africa’s liberation struggle.

It is one of the highest distinctions bestowed by the institution.

Her niece Gandai Baai was on hand to receive the award and underline what Winnie Mandela fought for.

“Thank you for turning every girl child, every woman to refuse to be a victim and to refuse to be defeated.”

“Let anyone define you according to their standards, let us continue to ensure the total emancipation of our people in the continent, the women and the children, aluta continua!”

This was the 68th graduation ceremony for Uganda’s largest university.

Most of the graduates may be too young to remember Madikizela Mandela’s leading role in the anti-apartheid struggle. But they still see her as a source of inspiration.

Graduate Shivan Musimenta says, “Her fighting for rights, I think that resonates with Uganda because we are going through the same stuff for our voice to be out there.”

“It’s really a lesson to learn from her, she is a strong woman. She has strong character and we have to take her trend.”

Madikizela Mandela was unable to attend, still there was everything to celebrate; not just her achievements but also those of her former husband, Nelson Mandela.

As with many parts of Africa, Madikizela-Mandela’s legacy can be felt and the efforts of her struggles for freedom continue to resonate well beyond her own homeland.

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Zimbabwe politicians remember Roy Bennett

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Several Zimbabwe politicians are expressing their shock at the passing of Roy Bennett.

The former Treasurer-General of Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change, his wife, Heather, and three other people died in a helicopter crash in the American state of New Mexico on Wednesday.

Former Minister of Finance and Leader of the People’s Democratic Party Tendai Biti says it is a serious loss to mankind and a blow to his family and the struggle.

Biti, who served with Bennett under Morgan Tsvangirai before he formed the PDP, says he can’t believe he will never speak to Bennett again. Many are passing condolences to their children Casey and Charles.

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Children miss school because of drought in parts of Kenya

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Several school going children in some of Kenya’s arid areas have not resumed classes following a long dry spell in most parts of the country.

Children are said to have followed their parents for long treks away from their villages in search of water and pastures for their animals. Most of the affected are Masai who are traditionally herders.

The previous day we met Henry Matiyan, a guardian who had come to collect a transfer letter for his brother.l The drought has forced his family to move several kilometres away from here – he will now continue schooling elsewhere.

“If it continues, it means there will be no school; all these children will go away with their parents,” says Kinuthia.

Kajiado like many parts of Kenya has not received adequate rainfall since 2016.  It is an arid area – meaning it lacks adequate water.

The Masaai people who are the main inhabitants of the area are livestock keepers – the more one has the wealthier they are, now their livestock’s carcasses dot their land, their cattle bomas are empty and so are their pockets.

Kajaido Resident college student Henry Matiyan has been forced to drop out until the rains.

“Ideally the school fees would come have from, from cattle, I as a masaai that is our bank. We have no other place to look for money, the only way is to sell cattles and goats.”

“It’s a big, big loss, big loss. Cows have died, our goats have died, even donkeys,” adds another resident Amos Lau Lau

To save the remaining livestock, they have now moved hundreds of kilometres from here in search of pastures and water for their livestock together with their children.

Only old women, the pregnant and very little children have been left behind.

Food has kept Enosorua Primary school running at least for now. We witness the children receiving a meal of maize of beans – just a cup per child but that cup means the difference between keeping the school open or closed.

“Do you see? That this food makes children come to school?  Yes, that I really accept, because when it is not there, the children cannot come to school,” says Enosorua Primary School teacher, Maxwell Obaga.

The arid and semi-arid areas make at least 80% of Kenya.

Education officials from the county, who refused to speak to the SABC on camera say, although Kajiado is an arid area, it is not classified as a hard ship area and does not therefore receive food rations from the government.

“It breaks our hearts to see our kids go the whole day without food and they are expected to compete with others who have better facilities,” says Sankale.

We sought a comment from Kenya’s ministry of Education but we were yet to get a response by the time of filing this report.

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